“Every time I stand before a beautiful beach, its waves seem to whisper to me: If you choose the simple things and find joy in nature’s simple treasures, life and living need not be so hard.”
Whilst initially rather reluctant when I was asked to take on this assignment, I had a change of heart as soon as the MASWINGS twin prop plane flew over the island. The lagoon that Pulau Layang Layang is famed for was beautifully visible from the air along with the only cluster of buildings and airstrip.
So here I was on an island 300km away from Kota Kinabalu in the middle of the South China Sea with representatives of the Fisheries Department, UNIMAS, The National Hydraulic Research Institute of Malaysia (NAHRIM), and Sabah Parks to meet the team and the passionate man behind Malaysia’s first suspended technique coral planting event.
Layang Layang is part of the disputed Spartlys archipelago where the Malaysian Navy operates a base. The island now also hosts an operations centre by the fisheries department and the island’s only resort. Commercial flights in and out of Layang Layang are limited to only 2 weekly flights and besides the government personnel, Layang Layang is popular with divers. I was told it is the best dive spot in Malaysia and possibly the world. The reef that encircles the lagoon is home to a myriad of coral species and marine life awarding divers with multiple dive locations. What attracts divers here is the school of Hammerhead sharks that stop by Layang Layng on their migration path. With coral walls that drop all the way down to 2000m in crystal clear warm waters make this a truly amazing diving site.
Crystal clear waters surround the island and the island is constantly lapped by the South China Sea breeze. With the limited rooms, limited flights, limited wifi (and no data or phone connectivity!) and the cost of travelling to Layang Layang means as a non-diver I am rewarded with the entire resort to myself most of the time. This left me with a lot of time to catch up on my reading, and self reflection and a healthy dose of day dreaming.
A big congratulations to Mr.Daud Awang, Mr.Sabry and his team for making this project a huge success and obtaining a spot in the Malaysia Book Of Records for successfully designing and building the first suspended technique coral farm in Malaysia. As a pilot project, this suspended coral planting technique ensures the longer survival of the young corals as they are growing away from the sea floor, hence away from predators. As the corals are suspended, when they spore the currents will carry them and deposit them further and wider, promoting the growth of more corals. Mr.Daud also sought the assistance of the local dive centre and they were happy to assist. Mr.Daud saw this as a collaborative effort as the hanging coral farm would soon become a dive attraction too.
I want to personally thank Mr.Daud, Mr.Sabry and his team for the wonderful hospitality throughout the 5 days, especially Mr.Sabry for his detailed planning of my logistics and his frequent check-ins to ensure I had everything I needed. Whilst we are constantly fed with rather negative news of the civil service, this group of passionate individuals are what makes a country flourish. Mr.Daud and his team are extremely passionate about their work, especially in the conservation and restoration of our marine ecosystem. Their knowledge about oceanic life especially corals is mind blowing, coupled with their dedication to their work and conservation this team will definitely be doing more amazing things for the oceans of Malaysia. Malaysia needs more people like them.